Elite Amateur Sport Football High Schools

Colts escape semis and will play for the city crown on Saturday

By Dan Plouffe

The St. Mark Lions gave them just about all they could handle, but the favoured Ashbury Colts survived a major scare in the national capital high school senior football semi-finals on Tuesday, Nov. 9 at Minto Field to pull out a 27-24 victory.

“You don’t always want to be in those situations where you have to fight back and keep fighting, but we worked hard and we knew we could pull through,” Ashbury receiver Tim Lo said. “Now we’ve got a chance to take a crack at the championship and we feel like we can do it.”

The semi-final showdown had the makings of a rout early on but turned into a well-fought seesaw battle between the familiar foes.

John Funston returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and quarterback Duncan Lurie hit Robbie Ashe with a fade for another major on the Colts’ first offensive possession to jump out to a 13-0 lead.

But the Lions responded with a strong ground attack as Jesse Brown finished off a long drive with a one-yard TD run. Taylor Moran later fired through a big hole for a 76-yard scamper to the end zone, which gave St. Mark a 14-13 advantage and plenty of momentum.

Ashbury nearly stole back all the energy when Lo grabbed a Lions field goal attempt that was just inches short and returned it the entire length of the football field only to have the TD wiped out by an unnecessary roughness penalty moments before halftime.

St. Mark barely threw the football once in the first half, so the Colts’ defence adjusted by stacking 11 of 12 players in a five-yard box in an attempt to stop the run. The Lions managed to rush the ball successfully nonetheless and their defence also stepped up, but it was Ashbury that got on the board next with a punt return TD of over 80 yards by Lo to go ahead 19-14.

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St. Mark recovered a bobbled punt return on the Colts’ 13-yard line at the end of the third quarter and then scored with a rare passing play as Graham Smythe connected with Mike Dewolf to retake the lead at 21-19.

The Lions extended their advantage to five points with a 16-yard field goal by Alex Agabie, but all that did, in the end, was set the stage for Lurie to engineer the game-winning 60-yard touchdown drive inside the three-minute warning.

The Colts’ pivot displayed tremendous poise to complete three lengthy passes and set up Funston for a cutback touchdown run. Lurie then found Ryan Aimers deep in the corner of the end zone for a two-point convert en route to the final score of 27-24.

“(Lurie) showed tremendous patience,” noted Ashbury coach Dwayne Smith, who was pleased to see his QB turn it on and take control of the game in the fourth quarter. “He continues to mature as a quarterback, and what makes me happiest about all this is that he’s only in Grade 11.”

The Colts were originally expected to host the semi-final contest at Ashbury, but with their grass field in poor condition at the end of the season, they elected to give up home-field advantage and play the game on the artificial surface behind the Nepean Sportsplex.

The nail-biting victory sends the Colts ahead to their first city final appearance in three years, where they’ll take on the defending OFSAA bowl-champion St. Peter Knights, who held off St. Matthew 22-18 in the other league semi-final.

“We’re certainly very happy with the outcome of the game,” Smith added. “I think we’re capable of playing a far better game than what we showed (on Tuesday). I really don’t believe we started executing to our best ability until the fourth quarter, so looking forward to Saturday, we’re going to need to get to that level of play much sooner if we expect to be champions.”

The Lions probably didn’t help Ashbury’s chances in the final as they pounded away with rushes on well over 90 per cent of their plays against an undersized Colts defence that will have just three days off before the championship game.

And they can expect plenty more of the same from St. Peter’s punishing power-running game, although the Ashbury ‘D’ was able to stand up to the onslaught during the teams’ lone regular season encounter.

In the 6-3 Colts win, the Knights didn’t show much of an air threat at all to complement their ground attack, but Ashbury can certainly anticipate a tough match from an opponent seeking redemption after its first loss to a national capital team since 2007.

“We’ve got to shut down St. Pete’s run game. That’s what we’re going to focus on,” said Lo, whose team now boasts an overall record of 6-1. “We’re happy, and now we’re ready to get going for our next game.”

The National Capital tier 1 senior football championship game between the Ashbury Colts and the St. Peter Knights takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 13 at the Nepean Sportsplex’s Minto Field.

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